Believe it or not, there's a right way to tell a fundraising story. And by fundraising story, I mean a story that you're using to raise money for your non-profit. A fundraising story needs the right story structure to connect with the audience, demonstrate need, and invite the audience to get involved by making a donation.In today's video, I'm sharing story structure that I teach my clients and students inside The Storytelling Non-Profit Master Class.
Why Non-Profits Need a Story Structure
You might be thinking that the concept of a story structure sounds a little formulaic. Does it mean that your organization will be telling stories too similar to other non-profits? That's a really good question.
But here's the thing. Structure is just that. I think about it as a loose guide to help you figure out what to put where. But ultimately the details that you put in that story, the information you choose to share, the theory of change you convey will make that story unique and make it make all the difference in your ability to share that story, raise money and connect with people.
Story structure, in my opinion, is one of the things that draws a line in the sand between stories that raise money and those that don't. So often I hear from organizations that they've tried storytelling, but they aren't seeing great fundraising results from them. More often than not, this is a result of how that story is being told.
Non-Profit Storytelling Structure
Connection is the first part of the non-profit storytelling structure. Connection is all about that initial moment of the story where we draw in the reader or viewer. You have to immediately make a connection with them, be it through values, through emotions, through a really small vignette or a life moment that captures their attention.
Once you've established a connection, next you’re going to introduce a character. You might do this a bit in the connection portion of the story, but in the next part you’ll want to unpack that a little bit more.
Who is this person or this object or thing you're telling this story about? Allow people to get to know some of those details that make that story really memorable.
I have an article on how charity: water does this especially well in their storytelling. One of the things that I pointed out that makes their stories really great are the emotions and details that make it memorable.
Next, the conflict of your story unfolds. Conflict is especially essential to fundraising stories, and this is something that I think a lot of fundraising stories miss. The conflict is where you're able to actually show the need, and the need is what gets donors interested in funding whatever it is your organization is doing. So make sure you don't skip over this, unpack it, talk about why it's important, why it's persisting.
If you’re unsure how to position the conflict of your cause, be sure to read this article.
Once you’ve established the stakes and conflict of your story, you’re going to demonstrate how your organization and its donors are able to resolve this conflict together. Your story’s resolution will show how a combination of creative programming or services plus philanthropy makes outcomes like this possible.
Call to Action
And finally, you're going to include a call to action to ask donors to join this story, to participate, and to make that donation. A strong and clear call to action in your story is essential. Just because you’ve told a story doesn’t mean that donors will intuit that donating is the next step.
Fundraising copywriting (and for that matter, storytelling) are really their own genre of writing. Simply having a beginning, middle, and end to the story is not enough. As I shared in today's video, there are five elements you'll want to include in your story to increase your chances of raising more money.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Has your organization used this structure before? If not, what's one thing you could do to improve your story structure? Let me know in the comments below.
I share regular video content on my Youtube channel so be sure to subscribe here to get more video tutorials to help your storytelling and communications.Need examples of non-profit storytelling in action? Check out this list of 20+ non-profit stories that raise money.
Nichole Noonan says
I’m working on a story now and am nearly done but needed to step back and look at it. Your video came in just in time to help me do just that – thank you!
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
So glad to hear that, Nichole! Let me know how it turns out 🙂